Thursday, July 2, 2015

Memo To Marco: Nobody Cares

Every presidential candidate looks for a gimmick; something to run on that sets them apart from the millions of other people who are running in the GOP primary.  For Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), he’s decided to plant his flag on San Juan Hill.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have struck a deal to open embassies in each other’s capitals and re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time in half a century.

“The progress we make today is another demonstration we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” Obama said.

Obama emphasized that the U.S. and Cuba have some shared interests, such as strong anti-terrorism policies and disaster response. But he acknowledged that the two nations still have “very serious differences” on issues like free speech.

“We won’t hesitate to speak out when we see contradiction to those values,” the president said.

The Republicans knee-jerked their opposition to normalizing relations with Cuba the same way they oppose anything President Obama does, so something something commie something whatever.  Then Mr. Rubio made it clear that this is his schtick.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” Rubio said in a statement. “The administration’s reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime.”

Rubio said he intends to oppose confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba until there is a resolution on such issues as “the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

Other than a dwindling group of domino players on Calle Ocho here in Miami, no one actually will decide to vote for someone because of their views on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.  In fact, I’ve talked to a number of Cuban-Americans, many who were either born there or are the children of exiles, and they all, including hard-core Republicans, think the embargo is pointless, ineffective, and should never have been put in place.  We have full diplomatic relations with countries that have far worse records on human rights, but unless Mr. Rubio is looking out for some old buddies of Chiang Kai-Shek playing mah-jongg, he’s not going to object to trading with Beijing.

It takes an act of Congress to end the embargo, so my guess is that it won’t happen as long as Barack Obama is in the White House, but I’m pretty sure that by the time the next president marks their 100th day in office, there will be a NAPA Auto Parts store in Havana and Marco Rubio will be the kid behind the counter looking for a gas cap for a 1957 Ford Fairlane.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chicken Run

Charlie Pierce on Chris Christie’s entrance:

I am not going to waste any more time making the unremarkable point that most of the announced Republican candidates have less chance of actually becoming president than I do. So now that Chris Christie is out there tellin’ it like it is, taking his 30 percent approval rating in New Jersey out for a spin, it seems a waste of time to point out that Big Chicken’s candidacy is less popular than brucellosis in Iowa, and that, at the moment, he’s pushing in all his chips on New Hampshire, where he is currently edging out Dr. Ben Carson. (Also, in one poll, 55 percent of Republicans said they wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances.) This is a party that can’t extricate itself from Donald Trump. Hell, anything’s possible.

His campaign slogan is “Telling It Like It Is,” which, if you’re over 40, you’ll remember was the tag line for another confrontational big-mouth, the late Howard Cosell.  Mr. Christie is the 21st Century version, but without the charm.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Those Who Know Him

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to toss his fedora into the Republican clown car today.  Why not?  It’s not like they haven’t got enough talent to choose from, at least in terms of the comic relief.  The GOP now has a bigger cast than Laugh-In.

Most people know Gov. Christie for his short temper (“Sit down and shut up!”), his I-know-nothing alibi for the George Washington Bridge blockage scandal, and his being nice to President Obama after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Jersey Shore.  But he also has a long track record in his home state, and those who know him are now sharing their views on his leadership and his character.  For example, Tom Moran of the Newark Star-Ledger:

Most Americans don’t know Chris Christie like I do, so it’s only natural to wonder what testimony I might offer after covering his every move for the last 14 years.

Is it his raw political talent? No, they can see that.

Is it his measurable failure to fix the economy, solve the budget crisis or even repair the crumbling bridges? No, his opponents will cover that if he ever gets traction.

My testimony amounts to a warning: Don’t believe a word the man says.

He then details a number of instances where Mr. Christie said one thing and then either did another or demonstrably lied about it, summing up:

Webster’s defines lie this way: “To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” That fits neatly.

And that’s my warning to America. When Christie picks up the microphone, he speaks so clearly and forcefully that you assume genuine conviction is behind it.

Be careful, though. It’s a kind of spell.

He is a remarkable talent with a silver tongue. But if you look closely, you can see that it is forked like a serpent’s.

I don’t expect Mr. Christie will be the Republican nominee, but it’s good to know what those who know him think of him.

To quote E.K. Hornbeck in the film Inherit the Wind: “He has no enemies.  Only his friends hate him.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bobby and Jim Go To Oblivion

Here are two more guys who will never be president.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal may be the smartest and most well-credentialed of any of the candidates running for president from either party. He was a Rhodes Scholar, ran Louisiana’s Department of Health at age 24, then served as a top official in the federal Department of Health and Human Services, followed by his election to the U.S. House and finally the governorship in 2007.

But all indications are that Jindal, who formally launched his campaign Wednesday, is a very long shot to win the White House in 2016. Jindal was widely panned in 2009 for his flat, dull speech when he was the Republican designated to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address. And he has never recovered.

Republicans aren’t any more excited about him now than they were when he flirted with running in 2012. Both then and now, top donors and officials in the party, while rarely publicly criticizing Jindal, have simply embraced other candidates.

To give you an idea of how earth-shattering Gov. Jindal’s entrance to the race is, check out the banner headline from the New York Times:

Jindal News Squib 06-25-15He’s got George Pataki scared, I’ll bet.

And then there’s former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) who thinks we should give the Confederate battle flag the benefit of the doubt.

This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.

But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect.

Thanks for playing, guys.  We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Money From Racists

Via the Guardian:

The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.

Earl Holt has given $65,000 to Republican campaign funds in recent years while inflammatory remarks – including that black people were “the laziest, stupidest and most criminally-inclined race in the history of the world” – were posted online in his name.

After being approached by the Guardian on Sunday, Cruz’s presidential campaign said it would be returning all money the senator had received from Holt.

Holt, 62, is the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a Missouri-based activist organisation cited by the author of a manifesto-style text that was posted on a website registered in Roof’s name along with photographs of the gunman. The FBI said on Saturday it was investigating the website.

[…]

Holt has since 2012 contributed $8,500 to Cruz, the Texas senator running for the Republican presidential nomination, and his Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. On some filings Holt’s occupation was listed as “slumlord”.

He has also given $1,750 to RandPAC, the political action committee of Paul, the Kentucky senator and presidential contender, and he gave $2,000 to the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.

A further $1,500 was donated by Holt to Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 Republican presidential primary runner-up, who is running for president again in the 2016 race and attended Sunday’s memorial service at Emanuel AME Church.

In response to questions from the Guardian, Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Cruz, said in an email: “Upon review, we discovered that Mr Holt did make a contribution. We will be immediately refunding the donation.”

Tyler said Cruz’s own campaign and leadership PAC would “be making a full refund”.

Matthew Beynon, a spokesman for Santorum, said in an email: “Senator Santorum does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind. Period. The views the Senator campaigns on are his own and he is focused on uniting America, not dividing her.”

A spokesman for Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

I’ll give all of those GOP candidates the benefit of the doubt and say that no one in their campaigns or PAC’s solicited money from Mr. Holt.  By the way, Steve M notes that these are not the only candidates to receive money from him.

But it does make you wonder what it is about those candidates and their views on America and race relations that would encourage someone like Mr. Holt to donate to them in the first place.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Casting Call

Donald Trump had to pay to have people show up at his presidential announcement kick-off.

Donald Trump‘s big presidential announcement Tuesday was made a little bigger with help from paid actors — at $50 a pop.

New York-based Extra Mile Casting sent an email last Friday to its client list of background actors, seeking extras to beef up attendance at Trump’s event.

“We are looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” reads the June 12 email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and this is inclusive of that school of thought.”

As they say, there are no small parts, just small actors.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trump The Inevitable

That the clowniest clown in the clown car would out-poll other actual candidates was inevitable, according to Charlie Pierce.

He is the inevitable result of 40 years of political conjuring, mainly by Republicans, but abetted by far too many Democrats as well. He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued that our political institutions should be run “like a business.” (Like whose businesses? Like Trump’s? Like Carly Fiorina’s Hewlett Packard?) He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued why the government can’t balance its books “the way any American family would.” He is the inevitable result of the deregulated economy that was deregulated out of a well-cultivated wonder and awe directed at the various masters of the universe. Sooner or later, all of this misbegotten magical thinking was going to burp up a clown like Donald Trump.

Well, what did you expect from a party that nominated George W. Bush and considers Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum to be serious candidates for the presidency?  It had to come to this.

Per Bob, Jim Morin in the Miami Herald.

Morin 06-17-15

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Downhill From Here

After reading numerous reports on Jeb Bush’s campaign launch, I can’t help but think that this is about as good as it’s going to get for him.

With all the hoopla and enthusiasm you see at the taping of an infomercial, with all the family he could get to stand with him — except for the former presidents in his family (I’ll give Poppy Bush a pass; he’s 91 and has limited mobility) — what we heard from him was a very nicely delivered package of platitudes and quips that could have been delivered by any candidate from either party: long on generalities, completely lacking in substance, touting a record in Florida that bears little meaning on the national stage (of course he balanced the budget eight times; the law requires it), and trying to sound like he’s the Republican who can reach out to everybody… unless you’re gay and want to marry your partner or a woman who wants to control her own body, or a husband who wants to allow his brain-dead wife to reach the end of her life with dignity and without absolute strangers like Mr. Bush interfering with the most intimate and torturous choice a person has to make.

The nicest thing I heard anyone say about Jeb’s announcement was that he came across as articulate and sincere.  Given that he’s a Bush and public speaking was a challenge for both his father and brother, that’s at least one bar he gets over, but it’s not exactly the one you want to have as the selling point: he talks good.

He took the requisite shots at this fellow primary crowd and at Hillary Clinton, and showed that he either has a lack of a sense of irony or self-awareness when he chided her for her apparent entitlement to the main event.  And no amount of manufactured enthusiasm at a suburban Miami college campus can make up for the fact that so far his “exploration” of his study in foregone conclusions has generated about as much enthusiasm from the base of the GOP as a Fred Thompson reverse-mortgage commercial.  Even his allies had to reassure the press:

“The operative word inside the campaign is patience,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican Party leader and longtime ally of Mr. Bush’s. “As people get to know him, things will get better.”

Not exactly a rousing send-off, is it?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Reading

Think of the Children — In the New York Times, Gabriela Herman talks to sons and daughters of gay and lesiban couples to see what marriage equality means to them.

My mom is gay. But it took me a long time to say those words out loud.

She came out nearly 20 years ago when I was in high school. My parents soon separated, and eventually, she married her longtime partner in one of Massachusetts’ first legal unions. It was a raw and difficult time. I hardly spoke to her for a year while I studied abroad. It felt like a fact that needed to be hidden, especially among my prepschool classmates. The topic was taboo even within our otherwise tight-knit family.

Five years ago, at age 29, I embarked on a project to meet, photograph and interview people with a similar story. I had never encountered anyone else raised by a gay parent.

My sister directed me to Colage, an organization that supports people with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents. Danielle Silber, who has six parents and who had become an organizer for the group, invited me to her East Village apartment one night. Her living room floor was filled with young people each telling their own family’s “coming out” story. Since that night, I’ve documented the stories of dozens of children and met many more. Each portrait and interview has become, in an unexpected way, my own therapy session.

The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling soon that could make same-sex marriage legal in every state. In the past, when confronting this subject, the justices have pondered the impact on children. In 2013, during oral arguments on same-sex marriage in California, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wondered about the “some 40,000 children in California” who live with same-sex parents.” The justice asked: “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

The lawyer defending the ban replied, “On that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.”

The studies may be sparse, but the stories are plentiful.

In my interviews, I met Ilana, whose mom unintentionally came out to everyone at her daughter’s Sweet 16 party. And Zach, who found himself compelled to defend his two moms in front of an Iowa House committee. And Kerry, who was raised as an evangelical Christian and who felt she needed to “save” her mom.

As we talked, we recalled having to juggle silence and isolation. Needing to defend our families on the playground, at church and during holiday gatherings. Some aspect of each story resonated with my experience and helped chip away at my own sense of solitude.

We — the children of gay and lesbian parents — are not hypotheticals. While my experience was difficult, I am hopeful that won’t be the case for the next generation. This inequality will fade, and my future children will wonder what the fuss was about.

Hillary Clinton Goes Populist, Almost — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Ms. Clinton’s appeal to the people at her launch rally yesterday.

If there was ever any doubt that Hillary Clinton was going to run a populist Presidential campaign, she dispelled it on Saturday with her speech on Roosevelt Island. Seeking to move beyond the controversies surrounding her family’s charitable foundation and her deleted e-mails, she spoke about the great disjuncture in the modern U.S. economy, and portrayed herself as an indefatigable battler for ordinary Americans.

The best part of the speech came toward the end, when Clinton said, “Well, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race. But I will be the youngest woman President in the history of the United States!” According to her staff, it was a line she picked up from someone at a campaign event in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago, and it brought loud cheers from her supporters, some of whom had traveled from as far as California to attend the rally.

But the guts of the address, delivered from a H-shaped stage erected in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which opened in 2012, came earlier. “You see corporations making record profits, with C.E.O.s making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged,” Clinton said. “While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top twenty-five hedge-fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And often paying a lower tax rate. So, you have to wonder, ‘When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead? When?’ ”

Clinton went on, “Prosperity can’t be just for C.E.O.s and hedge-fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations. Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain, too. You brought our country back. Now it’s time—your time—to secure the gains and move ahead.”

Had someone on Clinton’s staff been reading the speeches of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and purloining bits of them? Not necessarily. The line about twenty-five hedge-fund managers making more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country was actually delivered by President Obama a few weeks ago. But, in placing C.E.O.s and hedge-fund managers center stage, and comparing their outsized remuneration and avarice to the tribulations of ordinary working people, Clinton was acknowledging not just the economic realities of modern America but the fact that the center of gravity in her party has shifted.

“I’m running to make our economy work for you and for every American,” she said, singling out “factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day … nurses who work the night shift … truckers who drive for hours … small-business owners who took a risk. For everyone who’s ever been knocked down but refused to be knocked out.”

In promising, prior to Saturday’s speech, to end mass incarceration, expand voting rights, and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, Clinton had already shifted to the left on issues that are major concerns to key elements of the modern Democratic coalition. Until now, though, she hadn’t said very much about the issues of wage stagnation, inequality, and corporate piggery, which progressives like Sanders, Warren, and Mayor Bill de Blasio (a conspicuous absentee from Saturday’s rally) have seized upon. Rhetorically, at least, Clinton answered calls for her to make clear where she stood on these issues: the middle of an article by Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz, or so it seemed.

“Our country’s challenges didn’t begin with the Great Recession, and they won’t end with the recovery,” she said, continuing,

Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans. The financial industry and many multinational corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focussing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value—too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation. Our political system is so paralyzed by gridlock and dysfunction that most Americans have lost confidence that anything can actually get done. And they’ve lost trust in the ability of both government and big business to change course.

There remains, of course, the question of what Clinton intends to do about these evils. She said that she would encourage companies to invest for the long term, change the tax code so that it “rewards hard work and investments here at home, not quick trades or stashing profits overseas,” and “give new incentives to companies that give their employees a fair share of the profits their hard work earns.” All of these may be worthwhile policies, but it’s hard to see them having much impact on the great divide she had just identified.

Open Hailing Frequency — Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic reports that the internet in space is like dial-up.

Outer space has its perks. But super-speedy Internet is, so far, not one of them.Connection speeds from the International Space Station are “worse than what dial-up was like,” the astronaut Scott Kelly said on Twitter. (His colleague, Reid Wiseman, agrees: “We have a very slow internet connection, but reliable email,” he said back in February.)

Internet connectivity in space is structured around a network of tracking and data relay satellites—the same fleet of communications satellites that NASA engineers on the ground use to communicate with astronauts on the International Space Station. And it’s not like there’s any shortage of technology aboard. “They have laptop computers, including one in their personal sleeping quarters, which they can use for limited web access—email, tweeting, and news,” David Steitz, a spokesman for NASA, told me. “They also have tablets onboard they can use for various operational tasks, but also video conferences with family and friends on the ground.”

Astronauts first got Internet access five years ago, a move that NASA said would help improve their quality of life and help them feel less isolated in space.

What makes the connection so slow compared with broadband Internet speed on the ground? The easiest way to understand it is to consider the distance that data has to travel. When an astronaut clicks a link on a website in space, that request first travels 22,000 miles away from Earth, to a network of geosynchronous satellites far beyond the relatively close station. The satellites then send the signal down to a receiver on the ground below, which processes the request before returning the response along the same path.

Another way to think about the Internet connection from space is as “remote access to the Internet via a ground computer,” as NASA once explained. Or, as one Redditor put it in a discussion of the Internet connection: “The ping is quite high because of the satellite transmission to earth, but the bandwidth isn’t too terrible.” So the capacity for data transmission is robust, but the time it takes to transmit is—by an Earthling’s standards—pretty slow.

To get online, astronauts are plugging into the same channel that’s used for all kinds of commands to the International Space Station. “It’s the satellite constellation that we use for all of our spacecraft operations,” said Dan Huot, a spokesman for NASA. “It’s used for a number of things—not only their Internet access but any telemetry, basically any data from spacecraft systems going up to the station or coming down.”

So when the crew on the International Space Station wants to tweak the thermostat or boost its altitude, all of that work is done by an engineer on the ground. “We use our uplink through these satellites to send those commands,” Huot said, “and using the same channels, basically, we’ve enabled them with Internet access.”

A temperature change is a straightforward enough command that it’s basically “instantaneous,” Huot says. And while Internet speeds may be slower than that, they’re not exactly terrible. “They have decent speeds,” he said. “We have the capability to send up and down large-format video files. We’re sending gigs and gigs and gigs of video every single day just from live downlinks of the crews themselves. […] We have bandwidth to send that down to the ground without overloading the system.”

“In their off-duty time, they do have the capability to watch live television shows, and live sports,” Huot said. Astronauts even watch movies in space, though they aren’t relying on Netflix to do so. “The astronauts can pick, before they fly, anything they want to watch up there,” he said. “They actually have a projector and a screen they can use to watch movies.” (He declined to share which films are on the current rotation, but astronauts said they watchedGravityand Star Wars from space in recent months.) Livestream video is possible on the International Space Station—of course, there are limitations other than connection times. “It’s still basically a work network,” Huot said. “So it’s not totally unfiltered access to the Internet.”

Either way, Internet connectivity is likely to improve for astronauts as NASA makes the switch to laser-based systems. Already, engineers have transmitted a high-definition video from the International Space Station to the ground on a laser beam. It’s a “much faster” way to transmit data, NASA said in a demonstration, and one that hints at the “future of communications to and from space.”

Doonesbury — Secede already.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

You Don’t Know Jack

Marco Rubio wades into dangerous territory.

Sen. Marco Rubio has slipped a symbolically significant new passage into his stump speech, linking his candidacy to that of another youthful and charismatic 40-something politician: John F. Kennedy.

[…]

But it was a new line he began road-testing in Iowa that stood out. Rubio presented the 2016 campaign as a generational pivot point, likening his vision for a “New American Century”—the tagline of his campaign—to Kennedy’s 1960 challenge to the nation to embrace a “New Frontier.”

As Steve Benen reminds us, comparing yourself to JFK is not a good idea.

It’s also a little odd to hear a Cuban-American bring up President Kennedy.  Of all the politicians reviled by the core of the Cuban exile community, JFK is right up there with Fidel because of what they see as his failure to support the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.  So for Mr. Rubio to paint himself as the next iteration of the New Frontier is a tad ironic, if not dangerous.  Just ask Dan Quayle.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tangled Web

Marco Rubio drives like an idiot and he has trouble balancing a checkbook.  So of course he’s the perfect GOP candidate to tell everyone else how to drive and handle the economy.

Among the serious contenders for the presidency, Mr. Rubio stands out for his youth, for his meteoric political rise — and for the persistent doubts about his financial management, to the point that Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign flagged the issue when vetting Mr. Rubio as a possible running mate in 2012, interviews show.

Many of those troubles have played out in an unusually public way, leading even some of his supporters to worry. As he rose in politics, he sometimes intermingled personal and political money — using a state Republican Party credit card years ago to pay for a paving project at his home and for travel to a family reunion, and putting his relatives on campaign payrolls.

This is old news for people who have been paying mild attention to Mr. Rubio’s career here in Florida, but it’s interesting to see how it’s playing out on the national stage.

The usual suspects are leaping to Mr. Rubio’s defense, claiming the story is Democratic oppo research spoon-fed to the New York Times.  But facts are facts, history is history, and the story about using the Florida Republicans’ Amex card was news in 2010 when he was running for the Senate.

Hey, everyone gets it that people can have financial difficulties even if you have a sweet book deal, a $176,000 annual salary, and a multimillionaire sugar daddy.  But even if you have a lot of income, you’re still up the creek if you can’t control yourself from spending $80,000 on a speedboat because you always wanted one.

In the next Republican administration, he can be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Papal Bull

When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, a number of people were concerned that since he was a Roman Catholic, he would be taking orders on policy from the Vatican.

Fifty-five years later, we have Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, running for the presidency, and now it seems like the Vatican should start worrying about taking orders on church policy from the White House if he wins.

Voting Rights

Last week Hillary Clinton proposed a series of ideas to get more Americans to turn out at the polls on Election Day.  They include automatic voter registration when citizens turn 18 with an opt-out option and 20 days of early voting.

Those sound like reasonable and good ideas, so naturally the GOP went off like they usually do when a Democrat comes up with something.

The Republican National Committee, for example, called Clinton’s remarks “misleading,” though it has not yet pointed to anything from the Democrat’s speech that’s untrue. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), whom Clinton called out by name, said her plan “defies logic” – he didn’t say why – adding, “Clinton’s extreme views are far outside the mainstream,” as if most of the country is hostile to expanded voting rights.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came up with the best response: he said that Ms. Clinton doesn’t know anything about New Jersey and that such a plan would empower voter fraud.  Oh, really?  Is there something about the state of New Jersey elections that the governor would like to share?

Look, we all get it that the Republicans must reflexively respond negatively to anything a Democrat — especially the front-runner for the nomination for president — proposes, and they will use whatever boilerplate excuse is at hand to attack, including the tried-and-true “outside the mainstream” and “extremist” lines even when it’s about something as fundamental as free and unfettered voting.  That’s normal.

What’s really at stake for the Republicans is that they know that the more people who vote in an election at whatever level, the more the Republicans lose those elections.  It’s simple math: there are more Democrats registered to vote than Republicans.  So the only way the GOP can win is to get more people to vote for their candidates.  One way would be to come up with good candidates with good ideas for the country that benefit everyone.  Another way is to make it harder for the Democrats to vote by coming up with scary stories about non-existent voter fraud or by making it really hard for minorities and poor people to vote.

Which do you think the Republicans will go for?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Yet Another Clown

Here’s another guy who will never be president.

Charlie Pierce:

We know where Rick Perry would like to lead the country. Back to 1861. He’s the first candidate in over 150 years to run for the presidency of the Confederate States Of America.

Mr. Perry does have one quality that sets him apart from the rest of the bozos: he’s the only one — so far — under indictment.

Oh, and he is a veteran.  In fact, only he and Lindsey Graham served in uniform.  Sen. Graham was in the JAG corps, so maybe Mr. Perry can swing a deal for legal advice from him.

What A Creep, Ctd.

Mike Huckabee keeps on creeping on.

In a segment of “The Huckabee Report” that aired in January, the Republican presidential candidate had trouble reconciling feminists’ efforts to get a British tabloid to stop running photos of topless models with their efforts to draw attention to the double standard between displaying male and female nudity on platforms like the photo-sharing service Instagram. BuzzFeed News flagged the segment on Thursday.

“It’s getting harder to keep up with what you’re supposed to believe to be a good feminist,” Huckabee said, according to audio posted by BuzzFeed News.

He then named comedian Chelsea Handler — who’s repeatedly baited Instagram with topless photos — and singer Miley Cyrus as participants in the feminist “crusade to allow women to walk around in public shirtless, the way some men do.”

“So, are topless photos of women an offensive display of sexism, or an empowering blow against sexism?” he asked. “I have a feeling most men don’t care much either way.”

Ugh.  For a man who professes to be the moral compass for America, he sure is hung up on other people’s private lives and body parts.

Oh, and getting lectures from Mike Huckabee about feminism is like getting lectured about veganism by an alligator.

Short Takes

Holes cut in hull in capsized ship; toll reaches 75.

In or out?  Some folks in Congress want to force a debate on what to do with troops in Iraq and Syria.

Hillary Clinton pushes for voting rights expansion.

F.D.A. backs the female version of Viagra.

China suspected in breach in federal computer system.

The Tigers lost again.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Land of Lincoln

No, I don’t think former senator from and governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee has a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination next year, but it’s good to have him in the race.

Unlike other candidates who have switched parties, he seems to have made his moves not out of an interest in winning an election (cough*Charlie Crist*cough) but of sticking to principles that stood steady while the Republicans lurched and then raced to the far right.  That kind of moral clarity is admirable.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t win elections nowadays.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mr. Tough Guy

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) dropped his beads yesterday.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP.

“I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them,” Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.

For someone who sounds so butch on the stump, he has a record of being a real pants-wetter when it comes to making the case for going to war.

Barney FifeOnly a rational thinker like Lindsey Graham could look at the Islamic State’s threatening arsenal of pickup trucks and AK-47s and conclude that they represent an existential threat to the U.S. with the capacity to kill every single person in the United States of America. Only a sober observer of international politics could look at global affairs and conclude that “the world is literally about to blow up.” Only a sharp foreign policy mind like Lindsey Graham’s could make the connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi.

I’m sure ISIS is shaking in their boots.